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President George W. Bush, trying to tap into Independence Day patriotism to rally support for an unpopular war, appealed on Wednesday for American patience and resolve in Iraq.
In a Fourth of July holiday speech at a West Virginia Air National Guard base, Bush said “we all long for the day” when there are fewer U.S. troops in Iraq but insisted that more time is needed for his Iraq strategy to work.
“Victory in this struggle will require more patience, more courage and more sacrifice,” Bush, flanked by a giant American flag, told a crowd of more than 1,000 National Guard personnel and family members gathered inside an aircraft hangar.
With approval ratings at the lows of his presidency, Bush is under increasing pressure for positive results from a U.S. troop buildup in Iraq as he seeks to prevent further defections by fellow Republicans skeptical of his handling of the war.
The administration’s sense of urgency has increased in the countdown to a much-awaited September progress report on a Baghdad security crackdown spearheaded by deployment of about 28,000 additional troops since the start of the year.
Amid unrelenting bloodshed in Iraq and scant signs of progress by the Iraqi government in meeting political benchmarks, the White House has sought to temper any expectations of rapid strides from the troop increase.
Democrats controlling Congress have made clear they hope to use the September report as a lever to push for a timetable for troop withdrawal, something Bush has firmly rejected.
“That time will come when the Iraqi people will not need the help of 159,000 American troops in their country,” Bush said. “Yet withdrawing our troops prematurely based on politics, not on the advice and recommendation of our military commanders, would not be in our national interest.”
“It would hand the enemy a victory and put America’s security at risk, and that’s something we’re not going to do.”
Calling today’s U.S. troops the “successors” to Revolutionary soldiers who fought for American independence, Bush noted it took them six more years after the first anniversary of Independence Day to end the war with Britain.
The Iraq war has dragged into its fifth year with no end in sight and growing public opposition at home. As the 2008 presidential campaign revs up, some of Bush’s fellow Republicans are increasingly at odds with him over the war.